Although smartphones may be getting thinner all the time, their cameras still present a bit of a problem. That's because they generally can't be made thinner than about 5 mm – after all, they've got that lens to accommodate. Scientists at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering, however, have developed a flat camera that's just 2 mm thick … and it has 135 tiny lenses instead of one "big" one.
Called the facetVISION, the camera takes its inspiration from insects' multi-faceted compound eyes. This means that each of its lenses captures a different part of the subject – all of those parts are combined like a mosaic, to form one overall composite image.
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In its present form, the camera has a maximum resolution of just four megapixels. Immediate uses for it could include applications such as automotive sensors, quality control in the printing industry, and medical engineering.
Once developed further, however, it is believed that the resolution could get to over 10 megapixels, making it better suited for use in phones. It could be economically manufactured in large quantities using techniques similar to those presently used for producing semiconductors, in which large silicon wafers are sawed into smaller separate pieces.
This isn't the first compound eye-inspired camera that we've seen, incidentally. Although it was larger than the facetVISION, a 180-lens camera was developed by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013.